A New Cuisine: My First Exposure to Japanese Food

The rain pitter-pattered down from the sky. A light mist hung over the town. A stranger walked along a cobbled street dampened by slick rain. Beckoned by peals of laughter and the gentle clinking of ceramic cups, he turned onto a garden lined walkway and towards a simple timbered structure. The lacquer of the wood twinkled warmly. The low-hanging cloth of navy blue blended in with the shadows while the stark whiteness of the smooth calligraphy stood out in contrast. It read wa-shoku. Japanese cuisine. Pulling his lips back and tucking them into a smile, the wet-speckled man ducked under the lintel and into a world all its own.

You would reckon my introduction to Japanese food, uninfluenced for the most part by outside sources, would be one of subtle tastes and delicate presentation. It wasn’t. I also think my first residence, however temporary, would have been more expensive if I was served something professional. Being from a landlocked country like America, I’m used to grease, beef, and cheese that’s been beaten, battered and fried in some manner. Eating so much natural bounty from the ocean is unusual to me and I confess to craving an In-and-Out burger.

Location: Hotel Yonekyu in Hamamatsu

For what it’s worth, the meals I had at Hotel Yonekyu were delicious and very filling.


Rice is the main staple in Japan. Brought over via Korea thousands of years ago during the Yayoi Period, the Japanese stuck true to their character and made it their own. Hotel Yonekyu offered up four types of rice its patrons could choose from: plain white, unagi (鰻, eel), some kind of medley with bits of tiny prawns and chirimen-jako (縮緬雑魚, young sardines), and a brown sort.

Next, comes the cold noodles with tempura shrimp. After rice, noodles are another staple. They’re super versatile! All you need to know is that they taste delicious. The shrimp tempura I topped mine with was light and fresh.

For dessert, I ate watery yogurt with fruit cocktail. I’m damned sure that cocktail came from the can. Being used to having milk with breakfast, I had some in this instance, too. Did you know that Japanese milk is fattier than American milk? The going rate here is 3.6% whereas American whole milk is around 3.2%.


Lastly, we have the pastry. Wherever it came from, it was delicious.

Since I’ve been living in Gotemba, I’m pleased to announce I’ve seen two bakeries. When I have funds, I will most definitely treat myself because, quite frankly, I never saw a bakery in Las Vegas. I’m sure they exist, though.

Here is a shameless video from the Japanese Propaganda Depart… I mean, the Tourism Industry… giving you a small glimpse of Japanese cuisine. I will also include an older educational video that’s around 40 minutes. Please watch it at your leisure.

The Arrival

日本へようこそ!I have arrived in Japan and the mixed feelings I was having the morning of my departure are still rattling me. Before I go into depth on them, I must elaborate on the longest flight of my life.

Flying over the Pacific Ocean.

When I began flying, my first trip of remembrance was to San Francisco when I was dating Dean, my ex-boyfriend from when I was 18.

That measly hour and a half was a nightmare.

Some time after that, I branched out to Iowa with its gnarly 8 hours. Soaring across the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo’s Narita Airport only added 2 more hours to my existing record but when my muscles ached like the devil with a kidney stone and my backside had gone numb with the lack of movement, I found it hard to be exuberant about the whole affair.

Adding to the situation was the girl I had the (un)fortune chance to sit next to. I thought I was messy! Not only was I being crowded into the wall of the cabin, my limited foot room was being compromised.

I walked away from that flight with plastic wrappers stuck to my feet. I don’t want to think if it was static electricity or something else more suspicious.

Entering Japan. The weather was quite foggy.

I was aware coming here involved my going through Customs and Immigration, but I had no clue that I needed to bring my entire amount of luggage. I assumed that it would find me at the end of my trip, but I was wrong.

When I got to the counter to check in for the flight from Tokyo to Nagoya, I was questioned about the rest of my bags. I’m sure the look on my face said it all. I have to hand my hat off to the staff that helps keep the airports going. My bags had been set aside and retrieved. Off we ran to the baggage claim area!

I just about gave myself a stroke running around that much all of a sudden.

Back towards the plane! Even though my legs were cramping something fierce, I made it to the plane! If I could give any advice to anyone, it’d be, “Make sure you bring everything through Customs.” I had nothing to declare, so the whole situation worked out.

Here’s another tidbit of advice: Use duty-free shops to purchase your goods, souvenirs, etc. These are tax-free items and are waived by Customs. Lastly, if you know you’re going to need a hotel, please book ahead of time.

There are three hotels that surround the Chubu International Airport: Comfort Inn, Toyoko Inn and Chubu Hotel. Already exhausted from my mad dash, it nearly killed me to walk and find a location that would be put me up for the night that wasn’t already full. Turned away from two, Toyoko Inn took me in.

I don’t know what the Japanese standards are for a hotel, but I thought mine was well off after I figured out how to turn on the electricity. With the help of Google, I was able to connect the dots and insert my key stick into this little hole in the wall. The downside to that simple trick is that you’re forced to turn off the flow when you leave the room. How else are you going to get back in?

Not all hotels have this key option.

Being a girl who is used to all kinds of space in the bathroom, I was rather cramped whenever I needed to use the one in the room. Funnily enough, having been so interested in the modern Japanese WC, I wasn’t too surprised to see it. There’s a bathtub, a sink, and toilet. How unusual is that?

I was familiar with the Japanese concept of showering before bathing; however, I was concerned about getting what I had set up in there wet. Without seeing another’s arrangement, my own cultural norms dictated I take a simple rinse and run. Yes, I did use the bidet on the toilet. Not every toilet in Japan will have these, though! I felt foolish after realizing the water spraying my undercarriage wasn’t going to stop automatically.

Despite the humor of my sticking out like a sore thumb, the toll of it took a hold of me after attempting to sleep for about two hours. I was away from my family, my dogs, my be-starred bedroom… I was desperately alone. My only lifeline was the cell phone sitting on the desk.

Every adult will have moments in their lives where they revert back to being a child. As I sit here now, calmly typing this recent recollection, I will never forget how much of a failure I felt.

“How can I do this?”

“How could I be so crazy?”

“Why did I get on that plane?”

“Why did I even apply for this job?”

All I wanted to do was go back home in that moment.

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